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Associated Industries of Florida Advances Business Community’s Priorities in 2012 Legislative Session

March 10, 2012

TALLAHASSEE – In a year marked by the passage of very few bills and another multibillion-dollar budget deficit, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) successfully advanced legislation that puts Florida on track to becoming the best state in the nation to do business. Key legislation passed provides businesses with tax relief, promotes investments that will lead to economic development opportunities, improves Florida’s insurance climate and reduces restrictive regulations that stifle growth.

“This was another incredible year for AIF members and for the business community as a whole. Working in partnership with Gov. Scott, legislative leaders and other policy makers, AIF helped to drive Florida forward by passing legislation that will enable our citizens, our businesses and our economy to thrive,” said Tom Feeney, AIF President and CEO. “A business-friendly climate is vital to a healthy economy and robust job market. Florida’s lawmakers clearly understand that connection and their efforts this session are to be commended.”

Environmental

Numeric Nutrient Criteria – As a leader on Florida’s water future and the driving force behind the Numeric Nutrient Criteria Task Force, AIF guided bipartisan efforts to offer a Florida-friendly solution to create responsible water quality standards for our state. In a unique partnership with businesses and local and state governments, AIF led the charge to set Numeric Nutrient Criteria based on decades of sound research and, through the task force, continues to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure there will be clean water for future generations of Floridians without laying a heavy and unnecessary financial burden on businesses and governments responsible for meeting water quality standards.

Environmental Permitting – A high priority for the business community, legislation supported by the DEP will create a statewide Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) system, which will eliminate duplicate government reviews of permit applications, bring consistency to the permitting process and offer businesses predictable outcomes irrespective of where they are located within the state. In addition, AIF was instrumental in passing a comprehensive reform of the environmental permitting process that will streamline applications and shorten the time frames for businesses to receive a permit.   

Taxes

Unemployment Compensation – AIF worked closely with lawmakers to pass legislation that lessens the unemployment compensation tax increase to a more manageable level so Florida businesses can keep people employed and unemployed Floridians can continue to receive the benefits they need.

Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment – If signed by the Governor, and approved by voters, small businesses across the state will benefit from an additional ad valorem tax exemption on tangible personal property valued between $25,000 and $50,000.

Insurance

Personal Injury Protection – Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer  Jeff Atwater, legislation that will help prevent rampant Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud and reduce auto insurance premiums for Florida drivers was passed in the final day of session. This was a top priority for AIF and a coalition of groups that have been calling for reform to Florida’s PIP system.

Citizens Property Insurance Assessments – AIF played a pivotal role in amending property insurance legislation to include protections from potential assessments or “hurricane taxes” for all Florida citizen and business policyholders. 

Economic Development

Economic Development Package – The comprehensive economic development package passed by the Legislature contains a number of issues important to AIF and its members including the reauthorization of the New Markets Tax Credit program, expansion of the state's corporate income tax exemption, sales tax exemptions that will help grow the state’s manufacturing industry and incentives for the film, agriculture and aerospace industries.

Equally critical to the passage of pro-business legislation, is the ability to thwart bad policy that could have a harmful effect on business and industry.

A major victory for Florida’s brick-and-mortar businesses was the defeat of legislation that would have permanently provided online travel companies with an unfair tax advantage. Florida hoteliers who, for years, have been collecting and remitting occupancy taxes to the state, counties and municipalities will now be on a level playing field with giants like Travelocity. This also closes the door on other wholesale-to-retail businesses seeking a similar market-distorting tax advantage in the Sunshine State.

Additionally, AIF was able to beat back a proposal to force hospitals to contract with smaller health care plans for Medicaid services. This would have significantly altered last year’s Medicaid reforms and jeopardized savings to the state accomplished through that landmark legislation.

In the coming weeks, AIF will also release its 2012 Session Wrap-Up Publication, annual Voting Records Report and announce its annual Champion for Business Awards. The Session Wrap-up provides a detailed analysis of legislation affecting Florida’s business community The Voting Records Report compares state lawmakers’ votes on legislation impacting Florida’s businesses and employers to AIF’s 2012 legislative priorities. AIF’s Champion for Business Awards recognize those elected officials who have proven to be strong and forceful advocates for Florida business. Award recipients are chosen for their support of meaningful and often controversial pro-business legislation that benefits employers and their workers.

For more information on AIF, visit www.aif.com.